Hammer House of Horror was a British TV series from 1980 which ran for 13 episodes each just under an hour taking on stories of the spooky the supernatural the sick and the twisted.
Shown on ITV the anthology show written and directed by a gang of talented TV and film creatives took the infamous Hammer studios in a new and daring direction all under the watchful eye of producer Roy Skeggs who is credited along with Brian Lawrence for revitalizing the film company following receivership in 1979.
Stand out episodes in the sensational series all of which is included in the fantastic Blu-ray box set include the opening story entitled Witching Time which sees horror soundtrack composer David (Frenzy’s Jon Finch) over worked and alone on his isolated farm while his actress wife played by Prunella Gee is off having an affair behind his back.
Experiencing a strange storm which knocks out the electricity and spooks his animals David unwittingly discovers Lucinda (The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Patricia Quinn) in his barn naked apart from a robe and raving about how she has escaped being burnt at the stake by witch hunters.
Having used her magic to flee the 17th century the wicked witch is amazed by the technological advancements in her old home while David has trouble believing she isn’t a figment of his imagination especially when he locks her in a bedroom for her own good only to return to find her gone. From here Lucinda uses her dark charms to take over David’s mind and body turning him against his wife who believes he has totally lost the plot, that is until she encounters the sorceress herself.
Another scar-tastic story comes in The House that Bled to Death the tale of a young couple taking on a rundown house which has a horrible past. Unaware of the gruesome murder that took place there previously the husband and wife along with their daughter start experiencing disturbing events with the walls dripping blood, the cat slitting its own throat and a severed hand discovered in the fridge.
The fear builds bursting over in a sensational scene at the young girls birthday part where the children and parents assembled along with the cake and treat filled table are drenched in blood spurting from a pipe in the ceiling. It’s worth noting that in 2003 Channel 4 put Hammer House of Horror at number 50 in its 100 Scariest Moments show using this clip to show the audience why.
Packing in the most famous cast and probably the most psychologically disturbing plot is The Silent Scream which starts with the brilliant Brian Cox’s as Chuck coming home from prison to his wife Annie (Elaine Donnelly). Chuck’s first priority is to thank local pet shop owner Martin Blueck, played by horror legend Peter Cushing, who visited him frequently while he was in jail.
Having been in a Nazi concentration camp Martin and Chuck shared a common hate for confinement but when the eccentric old man shows the ex-con his extensive collection of exotic animals including a bear, kangaroo and panther all in open pens things get slightly more weird and warped.
Martin has been experimenting on creating a cage-less zoo electrifying their cages and conditioning the animals to react to a bell allowing them to exit for their food. Asking Chuck to look after his mad menagerie while he is away things take a traumatic turn into the unexpected. The rest of the episode plays out in a psychological horror that is deeply effective primarily due to the pitch perfect performances but also because of the shocking script.
The rest of the series is packed with stars of the time including Diana Dors, Denholm Elliott and Sian Phillips, and the subject matters range from demonic possession to werewolves, cannibalism to devil worshipers all featuring a heavy dose of nudity and gore in every episode as well as a ton of terror inducing moments.
Although very of its time in terms of the sometimes over the top acting and more silly story elements Hammer House of Horror stands the test of time due to the well done effects, the wonderful High Definition restoration and the highly original ideas which entertain and terrify in equal measures.